PHOENIX — Following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a 2004 Arizona law that required voters to show identification proving that they are U.S. citizens, the state’s legislature has passed another act in response to the justices’ ruling. However, this time the wording was more direct than previous laws and policies for which the Grand Canyon State has become known.
Rep. Tom Haskell of the 10th Congressional District, who sponsored the bill in the House, denied any prejudiced aim, saying: “I can see why a measure that empowers white people to vote at everyone else’s expense could be construed as racist, but that is absolutely not the intention behind it. We are simply trying to streamline the voting process by removing the people who are least likely to be American.”
Arizona’s law was a response to the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which created a federal form that citizens can use to register to vote, and requires an oath stating that a person is a citizen without the burden of documentation. Carrie McKenna, who supported the 2004 law, was ecstatic that Arizona was continuing the fight, noting that “white people in America are clearly going to be citizens … and if only white people can vote, it eliminates any possibility of voter fraud,” before going on to cite Arnold Schwarzenegger, Henry Kissinger and Wayne Gretzky as “clear examples of Americans who were born here [so they] wouldn’t need ID”.
Civil rights activist Bob D’Angelo claimed that the state’s attempt to provide suffrage only to white people was ostensibly trying to undermine the 15th Amendment, which “prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s ‘race, color or previous condition of servitude.” When this was put to him, Haskell vehemently denied that this was the case.
“The 15th Amendment was a response to a horrible era in American history, and at no point would I condone attempts to prevent African-Americans from voting,” he said. “Luckily, Arizona is only 3 percent black so they’ll hardly be affected; Hispanics, on the other hand …”
Arizona has recently been in the spotlight for laws and policies that seem to target ethnic minorities, such as SB 1070, which required immigrants to carry documentation of lawful presence in the country, and the Justice Department’s lawsuit against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Joe Arpaio for racially profiling Latinos. The bill’s co-sponsor, state Sen. David Swann, made it clear that the legislation was not related to this, however. “Voting is a right bestowed to all Americans that is at the core of what it is to be American,” Swann said. “The legislation just defines ‘American’ as ‘white person,’ immediately making it constitutional, so everyone’s a winner.”